CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Walnut Creek mortgage broker fined by FTC for consumer privacy violations, Macy's to close 30 stores, and Pepperidge Farm debuts gluten-free cookies

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Walnut Creek-based mortgage broker fined by FTC for consumer privacy violations in response to negative online reviews

Walnut Creek-based mortgage broker Mortgage Solutions, also known as Mount Diablo Lending, has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $120,000 after allegations the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws when responding to negative online customer reviews.

The company's sole owner, Ramon Walker, allegedly responded to consumers who posted negative reviews on Yelp by revealing their "credit histories, debt-to-income ratios, taxes, health, sources of income, family relationships, and other personal information." In one example, Walker is reported to have replied to a negative review with: "Your credit report shows 4 late payments from the Capital One account, 1 late from Comenity Bank which is Pier 1, another late from Credit First Bank, 3 late payments from an account named SanMateo. Not to mention the mortgage lates. All of these late payments are having an enormous negative impact on your credit score."

Companies that use credit reports or scores have a legal obligation to keep the information confidential. "They should not disclose that information to third parties without a legitimate reason to do so, and they certainly should not post that information on the Internet to embarrass or punish consumers, as happened here," said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.



Macy's closing stores nationwide, including in Bay Area

Macy's is closing around 30 stores in the first months of 2020.

Among the stores closing is the Antioch Macy's in Somersville Towne Center. A company representative told Business Insider that regular, non-seasonal employees who are laid off would be eligible for severance. They would not confirm if these closures were part of the previously planned closures Macy's announced in 2016.

Clearance sales are expected to begin this month and run for 8 to 12 weeks.



Pepperidge Farm debuts gluten-free cookies

For the first time in 83 years, Pepperidge Farm will offer gluten free cookies to its sweet-toothed customers.

Pepperidge Farm told USA Today that their gluten-free Farmhouse Thin & Crispy Milk Chocolate Chip and Butter Crisp will appear on grocery store shelves later this month, including retailers such as Target, Albertsons and Publix. While it will appear alongside Pepperidge Farm's other cookies, its package will be visibly different to help shoppers identify the gluten-free product.

"Pepperidge Farm has consistently listened to our consumers and retail partners to understand what are emerging needs, trends and how we can better meet these needs or even improve on them," said Janda Lukin, chief marketing officer for Campbell's Snacks, which owns Pepperidge Farm.



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